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HTC One XL review: HTC One XL

The One XL is just like the One X, but with 4G network speeds. It also benchmarks faster, though it's similarly held back by its battery life.

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Joseph Hanlon
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Joseph Hanlon

Special to CNET News

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.

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4 min read

Because this model is identical to the One X, we'll keep this review brief. There are a few key points of difference to draw reference to, but we'll try not to repeat ourselves by covering everything else. Check out the HTC One X review here for more detail about the phone's design, multimedia features and the updated Sense user experience.

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8.5

HTC One XL

The Good

Excellent Super LCD display. 4G network speeds. Great performance.

The Bad

Non-replaceable battery and storage. Only average multimedia playback options. Battery life not suitable for business use.

The Bottom Line

The One XL is just like the One X, but with 4G network speeds. It also benchmarks faster, though it is similarly held back by its battery life.

Of this year's swag of 4G variants, the One XL is a stand out. Unlike the Galaxy S2 4G, with last year's hardware, the One XL is also one of HTC's flagship smartphones for the year. A 4G phone with the best of this year's tech? Sounds like our kind of phone.

Design

The differences between the One XL and the One X are all below the surface. Physically, these phones are identical — save for the fact that the One XL comes in a charcoal grey, while the One X is white. They both have the same dimensions, including slim 8.9mm depth and matching 129-gram weights with the battery installed.

Most importantly, the one XL has the same outstanding LCD display that we saw when we reviewed the One X. Colours are vibrant, blacks are deep and images look sharp, thanks to the 1280x720 pixel screen resolution.

The One XL has a combined charging and data transfer port, but unlike most Android smartphones, the battery is not user replaceable and there is no micro-SD card slot to expand the unit's 32GB internal storage.

Performance

Let's get down to business. The big difference between the One X and the One XL is the introduction of 4G network compatibility, but to do this, HTC has had to ditch the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor to accommodate the necessary LTE radios, and has opted for a new dual-core Qualcomm S4 processor to take its place. On paper, this may seem like a trade off, slower processor for faster internet, but, in fact, you might just be getting faster processing too.

It all comes down to how much faith you put into smartphone benchmark tests. In the web-based BrowserMark test, the One X and the One XL came out neck and neck, but in the BaseMark Open GL test we ran, the One XL was well ahead — rendering twice as many frames per second. We also ran Qualcomm's Vellamo benchmark, which features a mixed bag of test suites, and the One XL scored the best results of the year so far — just ahead of the Galaxy S3 and well ahead of the One X.

BrowserMark benchmark

  • 164292
    Samsung Galaxy S3
  • 95630
    HTC One XL
  • 93416
    HTC One X

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Vellamo benchmark

  • 2398
    HTC One XL
  • 2082
    Samsung Galaxy S3
  • 1633
    HTC One X

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

What we can say with some surety is that the One XL has slightly better battery life than the One X, but it's a long way off the Galaxy S3. In our heavy duty battery tests, the One XL delivered between 30 and 60 minutes extra power, compared with the One X. In everyday use, comparative results aren't so clear cut (thanks to a multitude of variables), but you should manage a day's use with the One XL.

Battery life (time)

  • Wi-Fi browsing
  • 720p video playback
  • 5h 45m7h 8m
  • Samsung Galaxy S3
  • 3h 43m4h 6m
  • HTC One XL
  • 3h 21m3h 47m
  • HTC One X

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The 4G speeds are most certainly present, though, as it is with most 4G phones we've seen, you'll only really notice the speed in certain applications. Downloading large apps is one, where data can be pushed to the phone in chunks of roughly 5MB a second. You can see the improvement in Speed Tests too, but you might struggle to see it when browsing the web or updating social media. At the end of the day, these apps rely on more than data. It's still a first rate performance, it's just hard to gauge whether it's better than the latest 3G models.

Overall

Like the One X, the One XL is among our favourite phones of the year, so far. For many people, the choice between a One X and One XL will be made when they decide whether to be a Telstra customer or not. If you're looking for the better phone, you'd take the One XL, though it's a close call. Its dual-core Qualcomm processor appears to run faster than the quad-core Tegra 3 chip in the One X, but it's a barely noticeable improvement in everyday use. Faster still is Samsung's Galaxy S3, which is definitely worth considering if you wander into a Telstra shop.